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Football Legends Get Books They Deserve

Harvey Frommer's Sports Book Review

by Harvey Frommer

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"When Pride Still Mattered" by David Maraniss (Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 541pp.) and "Rockne of Notre Dame" by Ray Robinson (Oxford, $25.00, 290pp.) are two books with in-depth portraits of two of the most legendary coaches in football history.

The probing biography by Maraniss is in many ways a totally new look at the life and times of Vince Lombardi. Complicated, very well crafted, often poignant - we are there most of all back in the 1960s with the mythic and complex man who transformed the Green Bay Packers into a football powerhouse.

Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and biographer and author of "First in His Class", engaged in voluminous research using hundreds of in-depth, tape-recorded, on-the-record interviews plus letters, documents and other archival materials. The result is a book that is a true page-turner that will provide insights into Vince Lombardi worth knowing. Much more than just a sports book, "When Pride Still Mattered" is a sweeping narrative that places Lombardi within the context of the America and the sports world he inhabited.

"Rockne of Notre Dame" by Ray Robinson is an old-fashioned kind of sports book that makes for highly enjoyable reading. It is the bringing to life of Knute Rockne, the legendary college coach who won 105 games in just a dozen (five of them undefeated) seasons at Notre Dame.

"In the ROARING TWENTIES", Robinson starts off his introduction - "when sports icons were as potent as bathtub gin, Knute Rockne of Notre Dame was to college football what Babe Ruth was to baseball, what Jack Dempsey was to boxing, what Bill Tilden was to tennis, and what Bobby Jones was to golf. Rockne was one of the most formidable and dynamic figures of that impressionable era ...." That he was.

And we are given the full biographical treatment from Rockne's birth in Norway through the great glory days at Notre Dame through his untimely and tragic death in a plane crash in 1931.

Vince Lombardi died more than a quarter century ago yet his legacy lives on in Green Bay and throughout the National Football League. He was the man who uttered the line: "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing. " But Maraniss replays that line in the context of Lombardi's time and gives it an interesting new spin.

Taken together, “When Pride Still Mattered" and "Rockne of Notre Dame" are two sports books that should sit side-by-side on your bookshelf. Both are well researched and shed much new light on their subjects.

Bookends: "Running North" by Ann Mariah Cook (Algonquin Books, $12.95) is a riveting account of how the author's family moved to Alaska to run the Yukon Quest, the toughest dogsled race in the world. It is a fascinating book about struggling against nature and surviving.

"Golf Rules Plain and Simple" by Mark Russell (Harper, $10.95) is a little but handsome package explaining most of what even veterans need to know about the sport. 

(January 4, 2000)

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

FROMMER SPORTSNET (syndicated) reaches a readership in the millions and is housed on Internet search engines for extended periods of time.
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Dr. Frommer is the Official Book Reviewer of Travel-Watch. 
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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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